Last week, Megyn called the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) a “disgrace” for how it behaved during the playing of the national anthem before its World Cup match against Vietnam in Auckland, New Zealand.
Of the 11 women on the field, only five placed their hand over their heart and just three – Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, and Lindsey Horan – sang along to the “Star Spangled Banner.” It was much of the same when the players took the pitch before their second match against the Netherlands last Wednesday and their final group stage face off against Portugal on Tuesday morning.
On Monday’s show, Megyn was joined by Jonathan Isaac, NBA player and founder of values-based sportswear brand UNITUS, to discuss the USWNT’s actions and how it is reflective of the culture at large.
‘They’re Embarrassing Us’
Megyn believes the lack of patriotism displayed by the USWNT is “embarrassing,” and she questioned why the players would be interested in representing their country on the global stage if they are not proud of their heritage. “Once again, there’s our ladies phoning it in – they can barely spare a word there,” she said. “They don’t care to represent the United States with any sort of pride and so I’ve been asking, ‘What are they doing there then? Why go out there?’”
Isaac is in a unique position to comment on the situation because he made headlines in 2020 when he chose to stand for the national anthem and wear his Orlando Magic uniform while his teammates kneeled and wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In an interview with Megyn in episode 324, Isaac explained his decision. “What happened to George Floyd was obviously tragic and, you know, what’s happened in our world and is happening right now is obviously tragic,” he said at the time. “What I tried my best to do was to take a step back and say, ‘What is the right way for me to respond in a way that can bring the most change,’ the same way that people who decided to kneel or disagree with me, made a decision for themselves about, you know, what they wanted to do, which was kneel for the national anthem and wear a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.”
Looking at the USWNT, Isaac said the situation “sucks” but “is telling about where we are as a country” and culture. “Obviously, the U.S. has had downfalls… but one of the things that my pastor always says about us as individuals is that we haven’t done everything right, but we haven’t done everything wrong either,” he explained. “And that is the lens that I try my best to see America through: Yes, America has had, again, its downfalls and its pitfalls, but it hasn’t done everything wrong. We wouldn’t be where we are today if America did everything wrong.”
He believes it is possible to have “pride” in your country despite its flaws. “We should understand that being Americans binds us together and we are the experiment that can take people from all over the world and give them a message and meaning of what it means to be American and have them pursue their dreams,” he shared. “And I think that’s something beautiful and something that we should take pride in.”
A Cultural Shift
The 2023 USWNT is made up of a mix of veterans and newcomers, but one thing that is consistent across generations is how lucrative these women’s careers are. “Megan Rapinoe made $7 million last year,” Megyn noted. “She’s kneeler in chief – she said she’ll never sing the national anthem again for the country that paid her $7 million just last year alone, never mind what she makes every other year.”
The younger players are enjoying a similar windfall. As Megyn explained, star forward Trinity Rodman, who also plays for the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), brought in $2.3 million in 2022. “She’s not grateful,” Megyn said. “She doesn’t appreciate the country that created the environment… in which she was able to earn that both on the field and off thanks to all the endorsements she’s gotten at age 21.” She also called out players like Crystal Dunn and Sophia Smith who earned $2 million or more but “couldn’t muster the ability to honor our country.”
Megyn said respecting the national anthem is not “about you and your petty grievances,” but rather about honoring military heroes like Marcus and Morgan Luttrell. “You get up, you put your hand over your heart, and you sing because the United States of America produced a man like that along with his twin brother and they’re out there serving us still in different ways,” she explained. “That’s why you put your hand over your heart and you sing the national anthem.”
She believes that concept is lost on young people today. “I feel like it’s part of what we’re doing to young people today,” Megyn lamented. “We have too few Jonathan Isaacs and too many, you know, sports stars who want to shame the country and lead these up-and-comers to believe it’s the cool thing to do.”
Isaac agreed. “It comes down to America going through a spiritual battle that is overtaking our youth, that has overtaken our country,” he said. “I think initiatives that I’m trying to start and other people are trying to start as well are trying our best to push back against that and hopefully instill that American pride and instill those… constitutional values that have made America great.”
Land of the Free
There is a distinction, Megyn said, between being proud to represent your country and endorsing everything the country stands for. “Protest is fine, but remember who you’re representing,” she explained. “You want to go out there and protest America? You want to march with BLM? Okay. You want to march with the women’s march? Okay… but when you’re out there representing the United States of America, stand up, put your hand on your heart, sing… and don’t dishonor the people who have served this country and given literally everything so that those stars and stripes could be waving over their heads.”
As Isaac pointed out, however, what makes America unique is the freedom we enjoy. “I would say it would only benefit us for them to do the right thing and to share their pride,” he concluded. “But at the same time, the America that they live in affords them the freedom to go and not sing the national anthem or put their hands over their heart and I think that speaks to how great America is.”
You can check out Megyn’s full conversation with Isaac by tuning in to episode 598 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.